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In Ohio's key Cuyahoga County, some glitches at the polls

November 06, 2012|By Alana Semuels
  • People wait their turn as others vote at the United Auto Workers Local 1250 on Tuesday in Cleveland.
People wait their turn as others vote at the United Auto Workers Local 1250… (Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty…)

CLEVELAND — Aside from a few minor early morning glitches, voting was proceeding smoothly in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, Tuesday afternoon. Turnout is key for the president in this county, which is 30% African American and voted for Obama in 2008 by a 70%-to-30% margin.

At John Dewey Elementary School in Warrensville Heights, ballot scanners had jammed Tuesday morning, making some voters worry that their votes would not be counted. In Ohio, voters fill out paper ballots and then feed them into scanners, which tabulate results. When scanners jam, elections officials put the ballots into an emergency compartment and scan them at the end of the day.

In addition, some voters were initially told that the scanner would read only black pens, not blue ones, although the machine is “colorblind,” according to Robert Terrence, the poll location coordinator.

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“People were concerned that their ballots weren’t going to be counted, but then they figured out they were,” said Juanita Griffin, a volunteer for the Democratic Party who had been standing outside the school since 6:15 Tuesday morning.

Around the country, a variety of problems at polling places have been reported, including a strange incident in Florida’s Pinellas County, where some voters received automated calls from county officials telling them they could still cast ballots Wednesday. They can’t.

Here in Cuyahoga County, at least one voter ran into unexpected difficulty. Priscilla Harris, 57, was surprised to show up at her polling place in Warrensville to find someone had already voted under her name. Harris, still wearing a uniform from the nuts and bolts shop where she works, was frustrated, but said elections officials were quick to try to remedy the problem. The signature on the voter rolls didn’t match her original signature.

“I’m coming from work, trying to vote, and somebody voted in my name. That’s ridiculous. What is going on?” she said.

Elsewhere, most problems seemed to involve scanning machines. The machines also jammed at a polling place at the Deborah S. Delisle Education Options Center in Cleveland Heights.

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“The machine went down, but we got it replaced,” said Valerie Shanks, the poll location coordinator there. The scanning machine was down for about two hours, so Shanks followed procedure and put ballots into the emergency compartment. That compartment will be opened at the end of the day and the ballots counted then, she said.

All in all, according to voting rights group the Advancement Project, scanners were jammed in seven polling places in Cuyahoga County.

For the most part, however, voters around Cleveland said they were able to cast their ballots with few problems. Many seemed cautiously optimistic about the outcome on the election on the bright and sunny day — the first time the sun has shone in the area since the remnants of Hurricane Sandy passed through a week ago.

They include Amara Cole, who showed up at the wrong polling place in Warrensville Heights, but was redirected to another down the road. The Obama supporter said she was determined to cast her ballot. Asked how she would feel if Obama didn’t win, she replied, “I guess life will go on.”

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Many voters left the polls wearing Ohio's “I voted” stickers, which were a bit nonsensical, a variation on the classic motif. They said, “I [picture of Ohio] voting.”

Another voter, teacher Jamila Mason, doesn’t have too many reasons to be optimistic. She was laid off last year and had to take a new teaching job at a charter school, which pays much less. She’s still voting for Obama, though. Either way, she said, she’s eager to see what happens next.

If Romney wins, “I’ll be excited to see what the new administration does,” she said.

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alana.semuels@latimes.com

Twitter: @alanasemuels

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